Interview with Michael Yom, DESIGNATION Alum and Experience Designer at Rokkan

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Michael Yom is a grad of the Diamond Cohort, and recently headed east to NYC for a position as an Experience Designer at Rokkan. A self-described, “designer who dabbles in code”, he says he views design as a process of breaking down problems to create delightful and fluid experiences.

Where are you now working, and what is your job title?

I’m working at a digital agency called Rokkan, and my title is Associate Experience Designer, which is a junior UX role.

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Tell us a little bit about your new job!

I started a few weeks ago and jumped right in on a client project with a team consisting of account directors, producers, project managers, developers, visual designers, and UX designers. So far, I’ve been conducting exploratory research to capture best practices and wireframing for desktop/tablet/mobile. It’s a very fast-paced environment, and I’ve been learning from the more senior-level folk everyday–from working faster and more effectively to picking up on common design patterns/logic.

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How would you describe the DESIGNATION experience?

In a single word, the DESIGNATION experience was eye-opening (that counts as one word). Anyone can learn hard skills in their own time. But the opportunity to be apprenticed and to work alongside motivated peers helps you learn way faster and keeps you from having creative tunnel-vision.

“The opportunity to be apprenticed and to work alongside motivated peers helps you learn way faster and keeps you from having creative tunnel-vision.”

What was the most interesting or useful thing you learned during the cohort?

The most useful skill I learned is knowing what to look for and where to look when I get stuck. The full-stack curriculum really exposed me to what’s out there and how there’s so much to learn. The design jargon, research methods, resources for new tools and inspiration… all these things can now point me in the right direction when I need it.

What are the people at DESIGNATION like?

The instructors and staff are champions in the industry and have loads of insights to offer. They provide honest and constructive feedback and don’t spoon-feed you with answers when you get stuck. My fellow students came from a bunch of different backgrounds (career and nationality-wise), which was exciting, because it really conjured up a “we know nothing but we’re all in this together” attitude and made the space feel like home. Overall, the friendships, mentorships, hands-on instruction, and career advice were simply invaluable.

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What were you doing before you came to DESIGNATION?

I had just graduated from college with an engineering degree. I was always interested in the intersection between tech and design, but I had no idea that there was such a thing as a career in UI or UX. Luckily, the engineering background had given me a taste of user-oriented thinking—design is not only about being creative, but it’s also about making sound, logical decisions.

“Design is not only about being creative. It’s also about making sound, logical decisions.”

How did you hear about DESIGNATION, and why did you decide to come?

I heard about DESIGNATION from a friend who was a part of the previous cohort. I decided to enroll while reconsidering what I wanted to do with my degree. My experience with engineering thus far had been very technical and within a narrow scope, and I felt that I was more interested in the big-picture ideation for projects. At the same time, I was/am a big tech geek, and I wanted to explore what’s really behind the scenes in the making of a website or an app.

How did DESIGNATION help prepare you for your new role?

A big part of my new role is thinking about every possible scenario that users can come across when using an interface. DESIGNATION not only taught me how to be open-minded when considering various use cases but also drilled me into defending my design decisions to the point that I can convince others why A works and why B doesn’t work. Communication is key!

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What was your favorite part of the DESIGNATION experience?

I was never a fan of lectures in classroom settings; after almost two decades of schooling, my attention span is still as sparse as ever. At DESIGNATION, the lectures are interactive, and the instructors are always catering to what we want to learn most. I thought it was pretty incredible how it took nearly twenty years for me to consistently enjoy class!

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What advice would you give to someone who was trying to break into the industry?

It’s a little overwhelming to think about jumping ship into a new field, but the design industry is one that really benefits from diverse backgrounds. There is no field that is totally unrelated to design, because design is so often predicated on cultural perceptions and overlaps with what the social mass is into. Know that a ton of designers out there didn’t formally study design, so get excited and don’t be afraid to take the deep dive!

” There is no field that is totally unrelated to design, because design overlaps with what the social mass is into.”

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